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How to Make an Open-Plan Office More Productive

Seventy percent of workers now work in an open-plan office, according to the International Management Facility Association. The real question is, how many of those folks actually like working in an environment that potentially contains more beanbag chairs and foosball tables than doors and walls?

If the open workspace doesn't contain any private spaces, the answer might be that "very few." More importantly from your company's perspective, working in an open-plan workspace might mean lower productivity. A study from Virginia State University and North Carolina State University has found that workers in open offices are less motivated and have lower job satisfaction than workers with more privacy, while research from Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health shows that workers in open offices take 62 percent more sick days.

The bottom line is that employees are happiest and most productive when they have mixed work spaces. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Google's director of global design, Christopher Coleman said:

"We found that they need a lot of diversity. There are so many ways to work -- as a team, solo -- and so many kinds of workers, from introverts to extroverts and so on. We create many different places so people can be as productive as possible -- from formal and informal conference rooms to open spaces to stretching and yoga areas and gyms."

Good news for Google employees. Now what about the rest of us? Odds are that the boss isn't willing or able to tear down a few work tables to make room for a nap room or a yoga studio. Still, you can present this research as evidence that it might be worth it to set aside a few private areas for folks who need to be heads-down on a project. Who knows? You might be able to get a few tweaks to your space, and feel more in control of your work day. And that means more productivity for your employer and more job satisfaction for you.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you love or hate your open-plan office? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

More from PayScale

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9 Ways That Sound Affects Our Health, Wellbeing and Productivity [infographic]

How Does Office Design Influence Productivity? [infographic]

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(Photo Credit: Julian Stallabrass/Flickr)

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